The restaurant industry has been through a lot recently. In 2020, the restaurant industry lost a total of $240 billion in sales. Now, with the state of local regulations changing more frequently than they ever have and restaurants operating more flexibly than the past, restaurants are keeping up with their customers through their marketing channels. And developing better relationships with them with improved and more regular communication.
Before we dive into inspirational emails for restaurants and some advice on what to include, let’s get one thing out of the way.
Is email marketing effective for restaurants?
Email marketing is one of the most effective forms of marketing for restaurants for a couple of reasons. First, email marketing is known for its high ROI. For every $1 you spend on email marketing, you can expect an average return of $42. Second, email marketing is wildly underutilized by businesses, with only 26% regularly using email marketing for sales. Finally, the average open rate for restaurant emails is 20%, surpassing the retail industry.
So, what’s stopping you from generating new business by dedicating some time to restaurant email marketing?
Not only is it an effective way to reconnect with your past customers to remind them that you’re open for business, but it is a great way to entice new customers to come see what you’re all about. Additionally, due to the lack of popularity of restaurants participating in email marketing, you’ll easily stand out from the competition.
Of course, restaurant marketing goes much further than just email marketing. But to get you started connecting with new customers and reconnecting with old customers, let’s take a look at how some restaurants find success through running great email marketing campaigns.
Restaurant Marketing Plan
Create a marketing plan that'll entice and engage the customers you want with this customizable marketing plan template and interactive calendar from Toast.
Restaurant Email Marketing Best Practices
When implementing your restaurant email marketing strategy, start with the basics. Get your email marketing system set up and always use clear language and your restaurant’s branding. From there, get creative! Send promotions, welcome emails, and new menu items. Have holiday promotions and feature your guest’s social media posts. And follow these restaurant email best practices:
Put your most creative foot forward when writing your subject lines to get customers to open them.
When making an offer or announcing a promotion, be sure to include it in your subject line to boost your open rate.
Include the first name of the recipient in the subject line of your emails for a higher click through rate. Prioritize personalization and segmentation for better engagement overall.
Be intentional about when you send emails to avoid flooding your customer’s inboxes.
Let impact determine your emailing schedule. By monitoring your open rates you should be able to spot a clear scheduling pattern.
Saturdays and Sundays have the highest click through rates out of all the days of the week.
Include personalized messages in your marketing emails to add a friendly touch to otherwise generic emails.
To hit subscribers where it hurts (their stomachs when they’re hungry) always include tasty photos of your menu items in emails.
Include a variety of emails in your marketing campaign including welcome emails, promotions, discounts, seasonal menu changes, and anniversaries.
Stay on top of holidays and other current events to include in your marketing emails to boost relevancy.
Share important updates like changes in your hours or menu.
10 Great Examples of Restaurant Email Marketing
Email marketing is an art and a science. Use these posts for inspiration, then test them out and see what sticks with your restaurant’s audience.
1. Not Your Average Joe’s Welcome Email
The first email you’ll send as part of any email marketing campaign is the welcome email. This email is exactly what it sounds like— it’s used to welcome new customers to your restaurant’s family of loyal customers. Every welcome email serves two primary purposes. 1) It confirms to customers that they are now subscribers of your marketing emails or membership/loyalty program. 2) It begins to entice customers to return to your restaurant as soon as possible.
Why it’s so great: Not Your Average Joe’s (NYAJ) is a popular restaurant chain with incredible focaccia and dipping sauce (this is from personal experience, I can’t get enough of it). By including the bold headline, “Joe welcomes Club members first. Happily, you’re one of them,” NYAJ is letting each and every customer who receives this email know that they are a valued guest. With a clear call to action (CTA) inviting recipients to make a reservation, they are telling readers exactly what to do and providing all the resources to come in for a meal.
2. White Dog Cafe’s Interactive Cocktail Class
The White Dog Cafe used a unique email marketing angle— inviting guests to pick up dinner and a cocktail making kit, then join them for a virtual cocktail making class to complete the meal. By inviting their audience to not only dine with them using their traditional takeout offering but to engage in a cocktail class, they are creating lifelong customers.
Why it’s so great: The White Dog Cafe’s email includes CTAs like purchasing the kit + class, exploring their other nearby partner restaurants in the Philadelphia area, and connecting with them on social media. By including the up-to-date hours and an inviting image of their beverage director, the email is informative and approachable.
3. Lincoln Ristorante’s Celebratory Email
Who doesn’t love a party? Lincoln Ristorante sure does! And even better, they know that their customers do too. The strength of this marketing email lies in its simplicity. Sometimes, less is more— especially when your CTA is as clear and concise as sending out a party invitation for your restaurant. Pair that bold call to action with a clever design and you’ve got yourself a memorable marketing email.
Why it’s so great: By giving the food itself prime real estate in this email, Lincoln Ristorante makes it clear that they know exactly what keeps customers coming back for more.
4. Olive Garden’s Favorite Holiday
Speaking of highlighting food pictures in marketing emails… Who else thought the spaghetti in this Olive Garden email was going to keep growing longer as you scrolled? Just me? Design-wise, this email does a great job of drawing the eye of the reader into the email and holding your attention until it has successfully directed you to it’s CTA at the bottom. Pair that successful design with bold, inviting copy and Olive Garden has got themselves an enticing email.
Why it’s so great: Surprises can be great, and they certainly have their place in marketing emails. However, sometimes the best path is the most direct one. There is no questioning what this Olive Garden email is promoting. Whether you are looking at the picture, the copy, or the CTA for a free order of meatballs at the bottom there’s no guessing the message Olive Garden is sending with this email.
Creating an email marketing strategy for your restaurant can help you build lifelong relationships with your diners. Here’s how to use email for restaurants.
5. Legal Sea Foods knows the power of promotions.
Some marketing emails have more direct purposes than others. For example, this email from Legal Sea Foods that they send to loyal customers is a prompt to engage with the restaurant in a new and convenient way. They are offering guests a new idea— take your favorite Legal experience and enjoy it in the comfort of your home— all while enjoying a discount that they wouldn’t normally see at their brick and mortar locations.
Why it’s so great: Legal Sea Foods knows that a person who regularly dines with them might enjoy the experience of dining at home. They have freed themselves up to focus their emails on promoting a different side of their business all together— which is a clever and effective form of promotion.
6. George Howell’s Roasting Monday
One of the most important things that restaurants should remember when crafting their marketing emails is to always keep in mind why customers love your brand. More often than not, the reason why customers keep coming back for more is your delicious menu items and unique branding. George Howell coffee creates a weekly reason to check their emails— to find out what’s brewing this week.
Why it’s so great: With rich details about their rich coffee blends, George Howell’s email reads like a weekly newsletter. They include the upcoming menu to get customers interested in future blends and a promotion for a new iced coffee set. Wrapping up with local delivery and shipping, this email has options for customers when they are near or far.
7. Gyu-Kaku’s New Menu Item Email
Despite the setbacks of 2020 for the industry, there are still over a million restaurants in the United States. This means, every day customers have a wide selection of dining establishments to choose from. To ensure they keep choosing you, restaurants must find ways to differentiate themselves from their competition. One way to do this is by engaging with your audience often and bringing them in with hot new menu items (and drool-worthy photos of them) like this email from Gyu-Kaku Japanese BBQ.
Why it’s so great: By including a limited time offer, this email is a promotion and a reason to come into Gyu-Kaku all in one. By using language like “chef’s recommendation” the audience feels even more connected to the restaurant. They include fun CTAs to their app and options to order now or make a reservation. This beautifully designed restaurant email has it all!
8. California Tortilla gets personal.
Personalization is one of the greatest not-so-secret weapons of marketing emails. Adding a customer’s name and other personalization to otherwise generic emails is a foolproof way to make them feel special and like members of your restaurant family. California Tortilla takes personalization one step further in this email by not only addressing it directly to a customer by name, but by including a birthday promotional offer of a free burrito. To top it all off, they’ve slapped a bold burrito photo right on top of it all that you can practically taste.
Why it’s so great: Any restaurant can send out promotional birthday emails to their customers. What takes this email from California Tortilla to the next level is how much of their unique personality they’ve infused in it as well.
9. Dunkin’ Donuts promotes safer dining.
Source: Smart Mail
As the world continues to open back up in a post-pandemic world, it’s natural for some of your customers to have hesitancy about returning to normal. To ease their transition, include all of the efforts your establishment is taking to ensure a healthy and safe return in your marketing emails. This way, customers will know exactly what to expect the next time they visit you and they can focus on what’s most important— what they’ll be ordering off the menu.
Why it’s so great: By sticking true to their signature branding and color palette in the design of this email, Dunkin Donuts is making it clear that they are all in this together with their customers.
10. It’s summertime at Harpoon Brewery.
Harpoon’s email has a fun subject line “Camp is Back in Session!” that matches the amount of fun in their email. They showcase all the ways you can get your Harpoon Summer beer fix from picking up a case to coming into the brewery for a pint on tap.
Why it’s so great: With additional CTAs for their collaboration with Pink Boots and upcoming events in the area, it’s clear that Harpoon is dedicated to growing a community, not just sending out any old restaurant marketing emails. They expertly include images of their beverages, how to visit their locations, and their signature branding.
Sending engaging, clickable marketing emails is just one facet of a successful email marketing campaign. To go even further with your restaurant branding, you’ll need to craft a complete marketing plan. To get you started, download your free Restaurant Marketing Plan today.
Learn how guest marketing tools can help you get your customers coming back.